The Power of a Hug

There are girls. There are boys. They are different. That’s God’s plan. Boys are not supposed to be girls.  Girls are not supposed to be boys.  “So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

One thing true about girls and boys is that both need to be loved.  Maybe that is an obvious observation, but it is also really true.  Boys and girls need to be cared for.  They need to know that somebody is concerned for their welfare. They need to hear words of affirmation and encouragement.

Both boys and girls need to be touched.  Human beings don’t do very well if they aren’t touched, if they are never embraced.  Do deprive a child of hugs is to rob them of an essential human contact. Hugging used to be a bigger part of youth ministry, but these days touch can be a suspect part of youth ministry.  Hugging has been replaced by a politically-correct-side-shoulder-squeeze.  But, even that is better than nothing.  Many adults refrain from touching all together because they fear child abuse accusations.  Consequently, we may be withholding something that teens would find beneficial.

Do we need to be careful?  Surely.  There is inappropriate touching and there are horror stories of adults who have touched boys and girls in very wrong ways.

Yet, who can deny the power of a hug?  There is the hug of consolation for the person who has experienced a great loss like the death of a parent, a mentor, or a friend.  There is the hug of affirmation that can communicate so much in times of self-doubt.  The hug of encouragement communicates hope in times of defeat.  And the hug of acceptance communicates . . . well, it communicates that the person is accepted.  We accept the person without diminishing the struggle they find themselves in.  We may not be able to help them solve their problems but we communicate that we are there for them.

So, even if the politically-correct-side-shoulder-squeeze is the best we can do, do it.  It is touch.  And it communicates the powerful encompassing embrace of the love of God for his people in Christ.  Everybody, be they boys or girls, needs to know that love.

Published April 2006

Published April 1, 2006

About the author

As the Director of LCMS Youth Ministry, Terry Dittmer seeks to advocate for young people and to empower young people to be God’s people in the world and to empower people to “confess” their faith in celebratory and expressive ways. Terry and his wife, Cherie, have five adult children.
View more from Terry

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